Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” – it really needs a better name for casual conversation. We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order. I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy!

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago Now Officially Debuts

We already announced the bike last November, and brought you a bevy of hi-res images of the special edition machine. Although now that we think of it, MV Agusta never released anything on this Giacomo Agostini tribute motorcycle — better late than never, right? Back at the EICMA show launch, where the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago was first shown to the public (and Agostini himself), the Varese brand promised us two additional motorcycle launches in early 2014. MV Agsuta made good on half that promise with the Dragster 800 model, hopefully this Ago special edition isn’t the other half of that statement, and MV Agusta still has something waiting in the wings. That being said, the Tricolore & Gold paint scheme is gorgeous, and looks even better in person.

Isle of Man TT Gets TV Deal for Australia & USA

Want to watch the Isle of Man TT from the comfort of your non-British TV, but haven’t been able to in the past? A new TV from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development will do just that. Inking a new TV contract with North One TV, the Isle of Man TT will be televised in the American, Australian, and of course British markets, making it easier than ever to watch the iconic road race. With a five-year contract with the Velocity Channel in the US, the American cable channel will show seven one-hour race shows. Each segment will air within 24hrs of each race, and be tailored for the American market.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months. Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles. “Moreover, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny rumours circulated by the media over the last few days concerning supposed negotiations vis-à-vis the sale of a share of MV Agusta to the Fiat-Chrysler Group,” said Giovanni Castiglioni, the President and CEO of MV Agusta.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

Mercedes-Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings

04/01/2011 @ 5:50 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

Mercedes Benz Poised to Purchase Ducati Motor Holdings Mercedes Benz Ducati aquisition 635x423

When Ducati Corse announced that it had “partnered” with Mercedes-Benz’s in-house tuning brand AMG at the LA Auto Show, the deal raised a few eyebrows and sent shock waves across the keyboards of journalists as everyone asked themselves “what could this all mean?!” At the time it was obvious that the AMG brand would be featured on the Desmosedici GP11 race bikes of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, and that the sponsorship was just one of many that Ducati had secured, likely having something to do with a certain nine-time World Champion.

However the deal still stuck out as more than a straight advertisement transaction, with Ducati even saying that the relationship would be reciprocal, with the Bologna Brand helping hock a few Stuttgart Sleds in Mercedes-Benz’s ad campaigns. We got our first taste of how that cross-pollination of a partnership would look almost immediately after the announcement, with the two brands engaging in a sort of teaser video of what was to come further down the road (road…get it? ha!).

Then of course more recently we got another taste as the Ducati Superbike 848 EVO made a cameo appearance in a commercial that pitted it against a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. A lesser known fact to the public, but one readily apparent to journalists who attended the Ducati Diavel launch in Los Angeles, was that Mercedes-Benz has been supplying AMG-tuned vehicles to Ducati to use at press, media, and public events.

While it would seem that the two premium brands are exploring the limits of their marketing synergy, and how two wheels can compliment four wheels, and vice versa, reliable sources close to Asphalt & Rubber have revealed that the partnership goes deeper than just a joint-marketing campaign, and is in fact a part of an elaborate purchasing agreement that sees Mercedes-Benz acquiring Ducati Motor Holdings should certain criteria be met.

Starting at the beginning of this rather involved plot line is the fact that Mercedes-Benz is keen on taking-on BMW not only on four wheels, but also on two. Seeing the success of that other German car manufacturer, and its ability to successfully extend its brand from beyond just automobiles, and into the various other facets of transportation, Mercedes-Benz is not only trying to keep up with the Joneses with its interest in Ducati, but is also thinking of its bottom line profitability.

Mercedes of course has no history of motorcycles, and would have to virtually start from scratch on such an endeavor if it chose to do so; however the acquisition of a two-wheeled brand allows the German car maker not only to rapidly enter into the motorcycle industry, but also capitalize on an already established name, product line-up, and dealer network (three very valuable things when starting a premium motorcycle company). While the logic in this argument is sound, it’s really timing that’s the key element in making this idea actionable — enter the global recession.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few years (and not reading Asphalt & Rubber daily like you should be), you already know about the slogging the motorcycle industry took in the recession, something the industry is still recovering from to this day. Despite posting encouraging numbers throughout the event, industry insiders were wary of the otherwise optimistic reports that Ducati was publishing on its sales figures. And while the Italian company fared better than many of its competitors, Ducati was rumored to be below its break-even point on an estimated 30,000 yearly units.

On the wrong end of the balance sheet, Ducati finds itself in a precarious position, as do many motorcycle manufacturers. While some companies are looking towards consolidation to help assure their future incomes (a vertical acquisition if you will), Ducati and Mercedes are seeing the value in having a corporation that spans more than one market (effectively a horizontal acquisition).

Presumably Ducati would benefit from having a pool of free cash that isn’t tied to just the motorcycle market, while Mercedes-Benz sees the advantage created by the two brands being able to catapult Ducati’s sales in good years to an estimated 60,000 yearly unit. For those doing the math, that’s 30,000 units of poor profit —  pick your estimate average purchase price, and count the zeros.

If you’ll pardon the expression, it’s not clear when Mercedes will move its hand off Ducati’s ass, and finally make its move to consummate this relationship. Bu what is known is that its acquisition of the motorcycle brand would not only bring stability of capital to the Italian motorcycle maker, and grant the German company a way to keep BMW in its sights; but the acquisition could potentially have significant synergistic qualities that could create a situation where in fact 1+ 1 = 3.

This point brings us to the present, as Ducati and Mercedes take a low-risk assessment on how their customers and stake holders respond to seeing an Italian motorcycle standing next to a German car. With obviously loyal consumers and prestigous brands at stake, our sources say both companies are reluctant to play Russian roulette with their most valuable assets (part of the reason it’s AMG partnering with Ducati, and not the major MB marque), thus the subterfuge and slow-play to finish off the M&A. Also key to the deal is what sort of extra value, besides merely adding profits together, would create for Ducati and Mercedes if they more formally joined forces. Both of these are lofty questions, and are central to the deal.

While some are having a hard time seeing the two brands intertwined, there does seem to be a positive force between the two brands. Don’t be surprised to hear in the coming months that this domestic partnership starts looking move like a civil union.

Comment:

  1. brandon says:

    April fools?

  2. Brammofan says:

    I’m calling BS. You should have thrown a Bombardier reference in there. ;)

  3. Nice April Fool! I wanted to believe it, if only to see the desmo valve operating system come home to its inventors…

  4. Other Sean says:

    Don’t give Jensen that much credit (cheeky!), I think it could be for reals, yo.

    And as a Ducati owner, this is the first news from them in a while that hasn’t upset me (Diavel, no team in WSBK, Rossi ((although I’ve come to accept that one)).

  5. andrey says:

    Mark; excellent point about the desmo system!

  6. Zeitgeist says:

    Actually Mercedes does have a motorcycle in its history. One of Gottelieb Daimler’s first machines built was a wooden motorcycle using the first gasoline powered four stroke engine called the “Otto Cycle Engine”. This was in 1885 and is considered by many as the first gas powered motorcycle although there was a steam powered one about 20 years earlier.
    Gardiners comment to are spot on! That would be cool to see in a historical sense.

  7. DuxBros says:

    If it happens, could be a good thing for both brands. Previously I would have thought that such a combination of temperaments wouldn’t have worked out but Lambo and VW seem to be getting along well an prospering, so why not? At least AMG certainly understands performance vehicles and motorsports more than InvestIndustrial. And Ducati seems to be creating increasingly sophisticated bikes so allying themselves with a company that is known for engineering prowess is a good idea. Probably won’t be popular with Italians, but they didn’t like Ducati being acquired by TPG, yet that resulted in Ducati being brought up to speed with current technology.

  8. Westward says:

    Hope it’s an April fools joke. As a Ducatisti, my last (unintended) partnership with Mercedes happened on a freeway…

    It did not feel right for me, or the bike…

  9. Greg says:

    Thank gawd it’s April 1! MB continuously puts out poor products with terrible reliability. In the past 10 years Ducati has elevated themselves to a very reliable brand and I’d hate to see that go away.

  10. 76 says:

    I hate fools

  11. 76 says:

    The april ones that start on the first

  12. Shaitan says:

    I’m such a fool. I fell for it! :P

  13. DS says:

    “horizontal acquisition”
    “..when Mercedes will move its hand off Ducati’s ass, and finally make its move to consummate this relationship. ”
    “1+ 1 = 3″

    freud-ish Jensen

  14. matthew says:

    Please mark your April fools articles so that those of us that come along three days later and never read the dates of articles don’t think this crap is serious.